Nanooks comeback from three goal deficit to sweep LIU

Currently Seventeenth in the Pairwise
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 7:54 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The team goal this season for Alaska Nanooks hockey has always been the NCAA Tournament. With six games remaining heading into their series with Long Island University (LIU), the Nanooks would most likely need to win all six of their remaining games. Friday was no issue, winning 3-2.

Saturday was not the best start of the season for Alaska. Long Island scored twice in the first period, and increased their lead to three in the second period with a Riley Wallack powerplay goal.

Alaska began to chip away at the Sharks lead. The Nooks got their first powerplay goal of the night from Jonny Sorenson, who put an end to a six-game scoreless skid.

A minute and change later, Braden Birnie was flying around the offensive zone creating a chance for Payton Matsui who was left alone in front of the crease. Matsui used the backhand to over the blocker. The LIU lead was cut to one.

Another powerplay opportunity in the second period, allowed for Harrison Israels to pester the Sharks goaltender, and poke a greasy goal through the legs to tie the game at three.

As if it couldn’t get better, the Sharks were mounting a chance but couldn’t get past Matt Radomsky. Matt Koethe burst in transition, used a perfect pass to split the Sharks defense to Kyle Gaffney who redirected the puck into the net. In a span of exactly six minutes, the Nanooks went from a three goal deficit to leading by one.

Brady Risk pushed the lead to two early in the third period, and Connor Mylymok sent the puck the length of the ice into the empty net for Alaska’s sixth unanswered goal. The Nanooks get the first sweep in the series history between these two teams, 6-3.

Jonny Sorenson led Nanooks in scoring with a goal and two assists. Blueliners, Garrett Pyke and T.J. Lloyd also tallied two assists. Matt Radomsky’s rocky start early, shored up, stopping 30 shots in his eighteenth win of the season.

Six unanswered goals in hockey is rare at almost any level, but the Nooks were rolling in the second period. “Yeah, it really was just a character win out there,” said defenseman, T.J. Lloyd. “Obviously, didn’t get the start that we wanted. I don’t necessarily think we played bad in the first, but bounces obviously didn’t go our way. Largey (HC Erik Largen) came in after the first period and just let us know it wasn’t good enough, reminded us of what we’re playing for, and the boys responded in a big way.”

“Yeah, kind of like T.J. said, you don’t want to start like that, but we’ve had some pretty special wins this year,” added Jonny Sorenson. “You could kind of just sense in the locker room like there’s something special going on, but we have to just keep moving forward and celebrate this for a short time, but just move on to the next week.”

This weekend will be the last road trip of the Nanooks regular season. They’ll be in Tempe, Arizona for a rematch with the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Nanooks swept the Sun Devils 2-1 and 5-1 at the beginning of February.

“I’m just proud of the group,” said head coach Erik Largen. “I can’t believe part of the journey that we’ve been on to be at this point in the year where we’re still playing meaningful games is pretty impressive. It’s all credit to the guys. There’s been so many times in the second half of the year where we could’ve just folded and gone away. They just keep coming back. They’re a really resilient group, and they know what’s still at stake, and that was the message from the group. ‘Hey we gotta be ready for Arizona State on Friday. So, I think the mindset’s good, and we’ll see what happens here down the stretch.”

Following the results of the previous weekend in the NCAA, Alaska sits 17th in the Pairwise Rankings. Two other teams in the Pairwise to keep an eye on are (T-14) Notre Dame (14-14-4) and (18) Michigan State (16-16-2). In order to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, a team must have a winning percentage of .500 or greater. Notre Dame has two games left in the regular season (at Michigan). Michigan State is done for the regular season, but both have the Big Ten Conference Tournament which will be a part of their record.

Friday’s game with ASU starts at 5:00 p.m. (AKST), and Saturday begins at 3:00 p.m. (AKST).